Changing Roles within the Industry

I'm sure many developers like me have worked with the same technologies for quite a few years and then there comes a point when you find yourself having to learn a new technology quick or like me you find yourself in a new and very different role with a handful of new technologies to learn.

I was honest on my CV and my new employee is aware that I have never worked with any of the technologies they are using. Mainly Magento, Drupal and the Zend Framework. I do however have a number of years experience developing websites using PHP, WordPress, e-commerce packages and alternative frameworks.

So what research, if any do you undertake before starting the job?

Now I was told that I would be provided a bit of training over the first few days but I really don't want to show up on my first day without ever looking at the products they are using. So here is a list of what I believe all new developers heading into a new position should attempt to achieve.

Test drive the products

An absolute must. Download the latest version of the products and install them on your local LAMP stack. Take everything you can for a test drive. I usually go at my initial installation like a bull in a china shop. Change as many settings as I like in the admin panel, hack up the base theme and basically just get an overall feel for the structure of the website.

Read some comparison articles

In the case of Drupal and Magento they all have similar competitors out there so go read a few blog posts from people who have worked with them both. Pay attention to strengths and weaknesses that are mentioned and also significant differences between products you've worked with and the new products you are researching.

Read the Documentation

There's a lot to learn from the documentation. Take a look at the coding standards and then head over to the developer guides on creating custom themes or modules. I again re-installed the product so I had a clean install and then attempted to write both a theme and a module following online resources, books and whatever else I could find with careful attention to "best practices"

Ask the Employer

Make sure to find out if they have any specific requirements in house. They may want you to use certain IDE's or OS that you are not used to. You will always want to know what source control they use. If you've been using SVN for years or your command line skills are a little rusty and they use Git and the CLI on a day to day basis then you should test drive a few Git repos and touch up on your bash skills.

Pay Attention in forums

I a large percentage of the developer population participate in some kind of forum community and if you don't you should certainly start. There is lots to learn in forums and you may even achieve some satisfaction in helping others. I instantly added the new technologies as a favourite tag in my Stack Overflow account. Try to read a few problems people are having, watch for good answers and try solve some of the problems yourself. There's no better way to learn than solving a problem on your own.

Check the Company Blog

There is a good chance that the company has an active blog. This is a good place to research problems they've had in the past, work they've contributed to OpenSource or maybe just learn about their coding standards and workflow routines.


I hope some of the points I covered help you when changing roles. I know my points in part relate to the technologies I'm adopting in but please feel free to add some more tips in the comments. Finally don't forget to just have fun with whatever it is you're doing.

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